How to train your dog to leave it

Discover ways to teach your dog to leave something with our step-by-step guide.

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‘Leave’ is an incredibly helpful command to teach your dog. It can come in handy when your dog is reaching for something they shouldn’t have. But it’s not only helpful – it’s essential. Particularly if they are approaching something dangerous.  

Here’s how to teach your dog to leave something you don’t want them to get hold of. 

What is fair trade and how can it help teach your dog to give items back?

If you have recently got a puppy, then you may have noticed that they use their teeth and nose a lot. Youngsters are curious and it helps them to explore, learn and understand the world around them.

You should allow them to do this, but you need to make sure they’re doing it safely. This is where fair trade comes in. Instead of taking something from them that they shouldn’t have, you trade it for something better.

This means your puppy will want to give you what is in their mouth, rather than keeping it for themselves. Most importantly, you know if they do get hold of anything harmful, you will be able to quickly and easily trade it for something safe.

You want them to learn that it is fun so start with a toy:

  1. Pick a toy for your dog to play with. Make sure it isn't their favourite so that they are more likely to release it.
  2. Encourage your dog to play with the toy for a few seconds.
  3. Place a handful of super tasty treats on the floor next to them.
  4. Let them make the choice to move from the toy to the food on their own. Make sure to let them know they have made a good choice by telling them they are good and rewarding them with another treat.
  5. Once they have finished their treat, let them play with the toy again.
  6. Repeat this a few times, making it a fun game that your dog enjoys.  
  7. Once your pup is letting go of the toy for the food you can start introducing your fair trade cue.
  8. When your pup has hold of the toy, say your fair-trade cue (drop, out etc.)
  9. Place a handful of tasty treats to the side.
  10. Once your pup releases the toy for the treats, tell them they are good and reward them.
  11. Repeat this a few times to help your puppy learn their new word. 

Top Tip: Make sure you store away any items you don't want your pup to get hold of, as well as anything that would cause harm to your dog. It's surprising what they get their paws on!

How to teach leave it to your dog

Fair trade will help teach your puppy to give you something back because they will receive something better in return. Once they understand this, to help teach your puppy not to pick an item up, you can teach them how to 'leave it'.

  1. Start with a tasty treat in one hand and a boring ‘leave it’ item (such as their dry food, a sponge or piece of paper) in the other.
  2. Hold the hand with the item out, let them sniff and wait for them to look or move away from it.
  3. When they do, mark this and reward them with the tasty treat from the other hand.
  4. Repeat this until your dog is reliably looking away, and then start to add in the cue.
  5. Say “leave”, hold out the ‘leave it’ item out, then as you pooch looks away, mark and reward them.
  6. Over time your dog will start to look away as soon as they hear the cue.
  7. Try it in new places and add in distractions. You can also begin to add in some movement by placing the ‘leave it’ item on the floor, and then dropping it from a low height.
  8. You can also begin to increase the value of the item you are asking them to leave.
  9. If at any point your dog is struggling to leave it, go back to a stage where they were successful and progress more slowly.

Need to know: If your pup gets hold of something they shouldn't, remember to use your fair trade to swap it for something better. This will help your pup give back the item and keep them safe.

If you find your dog still won't leave, it might be worth enrolling in some dog training lessons. Our Dogs Trust online Dog School give practical training to help you and your pooch understand each other better. 

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